One look at Manchester City’s recent record against West Brom – 5 games, 5 wins – and you could easily expect a walkover tomorrow at The Hawthorns. The Premier League, though, is constantly throwing out surprises and Pep Guardiola’s City going six games without a win after a perfect ten to start, is an example of that.
Pep must respect Pulis’ stubborn West Brom side, who have already held Liverpool and Spurs at home this season, while also thinking ahead to Barcelona on Tuesday night. So how will he set up tomorrow?
The injury news is, that there’s no new injury news. Pep said in his press conference today that De Bruyne and Zabaleta are both ‘much better’ but that he’s not sure just yet whether they’ll make the squad tomorrow. We’re quite confident that De Bruyne will be involved though, but is likely to take a place on the bench – with Barcelona just around the corner and because Silva/Gündogan will be fresh after their midweek rest.
Maffeo to start?
I’ve banged on about this enough on Twitter this week, but it’s bleeding obvious – Pablo Maffeo has to start. It’s rare that everything will align itself so nicely for a youth player to (deservedly) play. With both of our senior right-backs currently out and coming off the back of an accomplished and mature performance away at Old Trafford, if not now, then when? We’ll only know how good he is / how good he can be if we give him a chance.
One could argue that West Brom away might not be the right environment to throw him into – it might be too physical. But that’s bollocks to be honest, he’s just showed himself capable of dealing with two incredible athletes in Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, so the answer’s simple: play the kid.
As for the rest of the team, I think it pretty much picks itself. The only real point of contention is who plays on the wing, does Pep persist with Sané? Or does he return to the Nolito – Sterling partnership? Personally, I hope he opts for the latter. I said on the podcast earlier in the week that I think we need to try and get back to what made us so successful in those first 10 games, and that was a settled side.
Since Gündogan has returned from injury we’ve lost our attacking fluidity, and I think that’s partly down to us trying to shoehorn him into the same team as De Bruyne and Silva. Saturday should (hopefully) be different, though. De Bruyne is likely to be on the bench with Tuesday in mind, which should mean that Gündogan and Silva will play in the two no.8 positions
With all that in mind, here is how I think City will line up:
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